On Advocacy: A Message to Parents From a Dyslexic Adult

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When I graduated high school, I was terrified. I should have felt happy and proud of my Regents diploma. It was a huge accomplishment, especially for someone who went from failing to honors. My family was proud, but all I could feel was anxiety. I knew I was broken somehow but didn’t feel like I could talk about it. I had no idea how to advocate for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything my parents have done for me. There were always extra stresses, and they didn’t have nearly as many resources as there are today. They did a fantastic job with what they had. I will always be proud to be their daughter, but I now have the luxury of time to see some of what I needed.

I’ve found most information about learning disabilities for parents circulated through social media only addresses current struggles. While I understand the need to get through the moment, kids need to learn early on how to effectively speak up for themselves.

This can take shape in many ways. Here are a couple ideas:

  • For older kids, fully involve them with post-high school plans. Do they want to go to college? Research with them. Is college not for them? Point them at resources about work programs or internships. Then look at disability accommodations together.
  • Listen if they’re having trouble at school with teachers or bullying. Discuss possible courses of action with them (taking into account, of course, age and development), then carry through as partners.

Understood.org and other similar websites have excellent resources that could help with this issue.

I’m not speaking as a parent, but as a child with disabilities who has grown up. Learning self-advocacy early on will make adult years easier and may prevent some heartache.

Doctor Who and Disability

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Infographic: 
Dyspraxia Facts
Also known as Developmental Coordination
Affects children and adults
Symptoms include difficulty with: Fine (small) motor skills
Gross (large) motor skills
Motor planning
Coordination
Often happens with other diagnoses
Changes daily
Also might influence speech and executive function
Estimated 1 in 10 people have it
Sources: Understood.org
Dyspraxia Foundation UK
Dyspraxia USA
@AlternativeWiring

            I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for a while now. The characters, story, and setting are what drew me in initially, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they consistently got disability right.

            One of the current companions, Ryan, has dyspraxia. I don’t have dyspraxia, so I can’t know what it’s like without a huge amount of research, but I will say the writing accurately portrayed much of the experience of living with learning disabilities. It reflected much of my experience, at least.

            It’s also impressive that they chose to give a young adult dyspraxia. Like dyslexia, a child with dyspraxia will grow into an adult with dyspraxia. It never goes away, but people get better at handling it. His race is also important, too, as he is black, and most LD representation is of white people.

            That said, his disability isn’t the focus of his character or story line. It’s a large part of it, as it should be, and it’s brought up from time to time in things he struggles with, but again, it’s not constant. Ryan is flawed, funny, brilliant, and makes mistakes. He’s human.

            Doctor Who also has a history of casting people with disabilities. There was one scientist who had dwarfism. I don’t recall her size or body-type as being relevant to the story, though it influenced how she interacted with the world around her. Last season, one character had blindness, Hana, and a blind actress was cast in the role, Ellie Wallwork. Her blindness played a large role in her character, but that wasn’t all she was. Hana was a smart, sassy teenage girl who knocked Ryan out with a door at one point.

What? I have a soft spot for slapstick.

            Disability is hard to get right in any fictional medium, but Doctor Who does it well.

New Year New Me? Not So Much.

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Closeup view of January 2020 page of a planner

I believe that the New Year is not only a chance to look towards the future, but also an opportunity to let go of what’s bothering us. In my case, that was old paperwork. Years ago, I’d gone through our filing cabinet and bagged outdated documents to sort through later. Those bags became breeding-grounds for dust mites.

Abusive low-paying jobs, a new marriage that was already suffering due to mental health problems, toxic “friends”, substance abuse relating to said “friends”, family issues, physical illness, housing problems, and financial troubles made my earlier years difficult. That paperwork was all from that time. As I went through everything, old feelings of hopelessness came back. Even one year of financial strife can echo for years. Our troubles lasted much longer.

That stress had physical effects. I was rarely home when we were renting, but the mold in the apartment still resulted in lung damage. The highest paying of my awful jobs had a wellness fair at one point, which included blood pressure screenings. When the nurse took my blood pressure, her eyes got wide and she asked if I felt ok. My blood pressure was up near heart-attack levels.

I am better now, and more rational, but I am still spiritual. That spirituality doesn’t manifest in religion, but in a belief that everything holds power. The paperwork had become a symbol of what holds me back. As I hauled bags to the recycling bin, I let go of what they represented. As I shredded the paperwork containing sensitive information, I envisioned those terrible things evaporating.

Does that make me a new person for 2020? No. What has changed in me is the ability to handle problems. The present is fleeting. Why not enjoy the pleasures of the moment while dealing with the troubles of the day?

Free Accessibility Training!

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Although I’m currently paying thousands of dollars for my second degree, and will be paying even more for a graduate degree, I still love finding free educational opportunities.

I’ve decided to be a part of student government for my last semester. Because disability is never far from my mind, I asked the accessibility department about disability training. The advisor sent me a link to a free document accessibility on the Minnesota IT Services website (mn.gov/mnit/about-mnit/accessibility/training/). I’ve completed the training for the word document section, but I plan on at least looking at the social media and webpage sections as well.

Being as interested as I am in accessibility, I admit to being at a bit of a loss about how to implement it into my webpage (which is now brand new!) and blogs past, including the original incarnation of Alternative Wiring. I’m sure these training sessions will be useful in the future.

For those of you who regularly make documents for a broad audience, I highly suggest you check that training out. It’s geared towards disability accessibility, but it also shows you some neat little tricks in Microsoft Word I had never known about and helps make document design in general a little easier.